After a hurricane moves through your area, you may have some damage that will be covered by your home insurance policy. To collect on your insurance, you must take some steps to protect your property and your rights under your policy. You should also be prepared to rough it for a few days in the aftermath. Here are five key steps in the claim process that you should be aware of.
- Read your policy ñ Technically, you should read and understand your policy before any damage actually occurs, like when you first purchased it. However, it may have been some time since that took place and now you’re facing imminent damage from an oncoming hurricane. Review it during the time that your house is boarded up and you’re waiting out the storm. Knowing exactly what is and is not covered can save you some anxiety in the aftermath of the hurricane.
- Contact your insurance company or agent ñ Some policies or insurance companies request that you contact them directly, and others suggest you initiate claims through your local agent. While it is nice to have the personal touch that an agent can provide in the event of a claim, you should be prepared to make direct contact with the insurance company instead. Given that you are probably not the only person in your area with storm damage, your agent may not be as readily available as he or she usually is in a claim situation. Be prepared with your policy information to make the initial contact as efficient as possible. Take good notes of any advice or direction provided by your home insurance company.
- Mitigate your damage ñ The most important concept after any insurance claim is to ensure that no further damage occurs because most insurance policies require you to take the necessary steps to prevent your home and personal property from suffering any additional damage. If your home has been damaged to the point where additional wind or rain may cause more damage, take the necessary steps to cover those openings. If you do not protect your property after suffering a covered claim, any additional, preventable damage will likely not be covered by your policy.
- Document your losses ñ While you are cleaning and waiting for the insurance company’s adjuster, start documenting the damages to your home and personal property. Take extensive photos or videos of the damage, particularly areas where you must make immediate repairs to prevent additional damage. These things will likely not be in their original state by the time the insurance adjuster arrives, so you will want to have a good record of the original damage. Prior to the storm, make sure your camera is fully charged, as it’s likely you will be without power for some time after the storm.
- Be patient and prepared ñ Your insurance company is likely well-prepared for just this type of situation. Most insurance companies have “catastrophe teams” in place that can respond immediately to high claim volumes in the aftermath of a hurricane. But even with these teams in place, you may still have to wait a few days for an adjuster to inspect your property and start working on your claim. Additionally, your area may be difficult to access, depending on the extent of damage caused by the storm, which can cause additional delays. Be prepared with alternate living arrangements and the funds to pay for them in case your insurance company is not able to immediately meet with you and start advancing expenses covered under your policy.